Colitis: Inflammation of the Colon
Colitis refers to inflammation of the colon. The disease results from prolonged irritation and inflammation of the delicate membrane which lines the walls of the colon, and almost always, the rectum. Colitis refers to inflammation of the colon. The disease results from prolonged irritation and inflammation of the delicate membrane which lines the walls of the colon, and almost always, the rectum.
Generally, colitis is classified into two types:
Specific: This happens due to protozoal and/or tubercular infiltrations
Idiopathic: This type is rare but the specific cause cannot be pinned down and is generally called ‘ulcerative colitis.’ Amoebic colitis is the most common manifestation of this type.
Chronic ulcerative colitis is a severe, prolonged inflammation of the colon or large bowel in which ulcers form on the walls of the colon. Currently, there is not much scientific/medical data on managing ulcerative colitis. Usually, the approach taken is to take antibiotics that act as intestinal disinfectants and control diarrhea.
In time, cortico-steroids were introduced as a revolutionary method to manage this disease, but the side effects proved to be too severe while showing poor results. Then there came along salazopyrine, which was said to have minimal side effects, but it created dependency and worsening of the condition without regular drug supply. The only alternative seems to be surgery – a complete colectomy (removal of colon) or proctocolectomy with ileostomy (removal of anus with colon, and creating an alternative opening in the abdominal wall). These procedures permanently impact the lifestyle of the patient due to several restrictions imposed upon them.
The psychological side of colitis also plays an important role. Research shows that stress and strain can act as causative and aggravating factors. This is why the psychosomatic aspect of this disease must also be taken into consideration when treating the patient.
Ayurveda and Colitis
In classic Ayurvedic literature, colitis has been named as ‘grahani.’ Its clinical description is exactly the same as chronic colitis. The principal diagnostic symptoms of grahani are frequent loose motions with profuse mucus discharge and foul odor. In ulcerative colitis, one may also experience bleeding which is also the case in grahani.
Grahani is considered to be a syndrome in which the digestive fire or agni is impaired. This is due to the aggravation of Pitta dosha, with certain degrees of Vata dosha imbalance. When agni is dampened, toxic waste material (ama) starts to accumulate which is then passed through stools. An excessive consumption of Pitta-aggravating foods or lifestyle can cause damage to the rakta dhatu (blood tissue) and mamsa dhatu (muscle tissue) leads to the accumulation of ama that begins to form deposits from between the villi in the intestines, compromising the functioning and immunity of the intestines.
Vata dosha may also be aggravated in the early stages which leads to inflammation, mucus and edema.
The Ayurvedic treatment of colitis consists of rekindling the digestive agni, thereby reducing the formation of ama. While Ayurvedic medicines are extremely effective in regularizing agni, yoga can go a long way in catalyzing the stability of agni, and in fact even continuing to function optimally when medicines are withdrawn. One is only considered as cured of this disease if the agni remains stable without the need for external medicines.
Symptoms of Colitis
Colitis usually begins in the lower part of the colon and spreads upwards. The first symptom of the issue is an increased urgency to move the bowel, followed by cramping pains in the abdomen and sometimes, bloody mucus in the stool. As the disease spreads upward, the stool become watery and more frequent and are followed by rectal straining. The patient is usually malnourished and may be severely underweight.
Here’s a quick look at the major symptoms of colitis:
- Bloody diarrhea
- Abdominal pain, usually in the lower left quadrant
- Unintentional weight loss
- Low-grade fever
- Rectal pain
- Rectal bleeding
- Skin lesions
- Sounds from the abdomen
- Loss of appetite
- Rumbling sounds from the stomach
- Mouth ulcers
- Distended abdomen
- Unpleasant body odor
Root Causes of Colitis
One of the causes of colitis is chronic constipation and the use of purgatives. Constipation causes an accumulation of hard fecal matter which is never properly evacuated. Purgatives used as a cure only result in increasing irritation.
Often colitis results from poorly digested roughage, especially of cereals and carbohydrates, which causes bowel irritation.
Other causes of the disease are an allergic sensitivity to certain foods, intake of antibiotics, prolonged illness that restricts flow of blood to the colon and severe stress (which compromises the immune system).
A gluten allergy can also be at the root cause of colitis.
Colitis may manifest as a symptom for more serious ailments like cancer or TB.
Diagnosis of Colitis
The following tests are used to determine colitis:
- Stool test: To exclude any infective pathologies
- Blood tests:
TBC and CBC: Due to the continuous loss of blood, there is anemia
TLC and ESR: These are raised due to inflammation
KFT, LFT, Lipid profile, Iron studies, etc.: These are done to exclude the possibility of any other pathologies in case of cause unknown
- Colonoscopy and Sigmoidoscopy: These are used to get a direct view of the intestines.
- Barium Enema X-Ray: This is a test to confirm the diagnosis of ulcerative colitis.
- CT Scan and MRI: This could also lead to significant findings that can help patients get better, personalized treatment.
- Ultrasound: To rule out other pathologies like the growth of tumor, tuberculosis, etc.
Home Remedies for Colitis Treatment
There are several natural ways to treat colitis at home safely and effectively.
- Coconut water: Tender coconut water contains many enzymes and nutrients that help settle the stomach while providing adequate nutrition lost by excessive motions. This is one those natural remedies for ulcerative colitis that makes for a refreshing and replenishing drink.
- Doob grass (Durva / Cynodon dactylon): Take 3-4 teaspoons of doob grass juice, mix water and drink on an empty stomach in morning.
- Marigold (Genda): Crush the golden yellow petals to extract the juice. Consume 20 ml twice daily.
- Wheatgrass: This is one of the most effective natural remedies for ulcerative colitis. Start with consuming 3-4 teaspoons of the juice daily and gradually work up to 3.5 ounces.
- Olive oil: Olive oil is top home remedy for mild to moderate colitis. Simply take 1-2 tablespoons of the oil regularly.
- Ginger: Grate a small finger of ginger into a cup of water. Simmer for 10 minutes over a low flame. Cool and strain, add lemon juice and honey before consuming.
- Turmeric: Grate a fresh piece of turmeric into a cup of water. Let it simmer for 10 minutes. Cool and strain, then add lemon juice and honey.
- Apple cider vinegar: ACV is one of the best natural cures for colitis. Take about 30 ml (a tablespoon) of ACV with “mother.” Add a teaspoon of honey for extra benefit and drink thrice daily before every meal.
- Fennel: Chew some saunf or fennel seeds after meals for its cooling effect.
- Rose: Gulkand or rose petal jam can have an extremely cooling effect in case of ulcerative colitis. Take about 10 grams on a daily basis to relieve any burning sensation in the stomach.
- Pomegranate: Pomegranate juice is very effective in replacing the nutrients lost in case of ulcerative colitis. Take 100-150 ml of pomegranate juice with 1 tsp. yastimadhu powder (licorice root) daily to benefit from it. Drinking the decoction of the pomegranate peel is once or twice daily is very beneficial for arresting loose motions.
- Buttermilk: Drink a glass of buttermilk (takra) with 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric powder, a pinch of roasted cumin seed powder and rock salt to taste. Consume twice a day.
- Drumstick (Moringa): Boil 4-5 drumsticks in water. Peel off their skins and make into paste. Sieve through and extract the juice. Add the juice to a glass of coconut water. Add a teaspoon of honey. Mix well and drink once a day.
- Spice mix: Powder together equal quantities of cloves, cinnamon, green cardamom and nutmeg. Have one teaspoon of this powder twice a day with water.
Ayurvedic Treatment for Colitis
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